“God’s ultimate will is for you to get married.” “In order to be fulfilled, you have to findÂ your ‘soul mate.'” “It is not good for you to be alone.” Sound familiar? These are common statements that are made within the church by well meaning pastors and teachers. But are they true? Does one have to be married to find dignity in God’s creation?Â Can someone contribute in a significant way to society, culture, and the church if they are not married? Does GenesisÂ 2 teach that one must get married or, in God’s eyes, “it is not good”?
Let’s put this into perspective. How many out there are single? “With the increase in the divorce rate, the increase in the age at which people first get married, and with our increasing longevity, the experience of being single is now one of the most widely shared experiences of adulthood,” according to Bella DePaulo (visiting professor of psychology at the University of California-Santa Barbara). Single people now account for more than 40% of the adult population. This is up from 28% of all adults in the USA three decades ago.Â Now do you see the relevance of these issues? The church has done well dealing with a theology of marriage, but has not contributed much with regards to a theology of singleness.
Seeing as how I was a singles pastor for six years, I thought that I would give my theological “gems” of singleness to the blogworld. Well, I really only have one right now, and it is more like a piece of sand just before it makes its way into the mouth of an unsuspecting oyster. It may cause some irritation, but in the end, it produces something valuable!
The early chapters of Genesis give us some great foundational principles about human dignity and purpose. It is in these chapters we learn that man is the crowning achievementÂ in God’s creation. It is here that we learn of God’s intention of placing all creation under the vicarious care of mankind. It is also here that we learn of the completion of humanity through the creation of the woman from the rib of a man. It is this last revelation that I have found gives singles much difficulty. The the discouraging thought is that being single makes me incomplete.
For those of you who don’t know, there are really three kinds of singles: 1) Young singles who are content and searching for a mate (usually in their early 20s). 2) Older singles (divorced or not) who are not content and searching for a mate (from mid-twenties and up). 3) Singles who are content in their singleness and not searching. My contention in this post will apply to all three, yet have a greater relevance to the second group.
Here is the proposition that I want to put forth: The theology of Genesis 2 in relation to the creation of the woman for man has implications for humanity in general, not simply forÂ theÂ maritalÂ relationship. When God said “It is not good for man to be alone” I believe this must primarily be taken in the sense of humanity in general. It was not good for man to be the sole representative of the human race. If God had left the situation as is after the creation of Adam, His image would not have been represented completely. God created woman to complete His image and thereby complete what was lacking in humanity in general. While Adam was the sole beneficiary of the woman at the time of creation, he represented all of humanity. Eve was created to complete Adam, but she also represents the completion that women bring to humanity in general.
What does this mean for singles? It means that men and women contribute to the image of God by their participation in humanity. If you are single, you, as anÂ individual, still contribute to the completion of God’s image by your participation in society. In other words, singles don’t have to find a mate in order to find relevance and dignity.
When I teach Humanity and SinÂ in The Theology Program, I often start with this question to women: What do you like most about being a woman? I ask the menÂ What do you like most about being a man? Whether it is my local students or my students all over the world, there is much commonality to the answers. Men, among other things,Â will always say that like being providers and protectors. Women, among other things,Â will always say they like being nurturers. Why? Because this follows God’s unique design for the sexes. I am a complementarian believing that God has created the sexes with unique gifts and roles that complement each other. Being such, I believe that the way in which we find dignity as individuals is to appreciate our distinct sex roles in the society, the church,Â and the family.
Taking the answers that I am given in the Humanity and Sin course, I then ask the men and women how it is that these innate and distinct pleasures are expressed in a godly way. Then I ask if these pleasures can be expressed outside the marriage relationship. After some time, everyone agrees that men can protect and provide even without a family. As well,Â women can nurture outside of the family structure. How? Because both sexes contribute to society in general in these ways.
Women nurture society, not just their immediate family.Â Women are those whoÂ nurture all God’s creation. Nurturing is much more than an act in a relationship between a mother and child. It has to do with providing beauty to the world in general. The beauty is expressed in so many ways. It also has to do with the emotional care and stabilization that they provide through their acute ability to sense needs and care for pains in a way that men are, often times,Â oblivious to. I know that when I am down and need someone to talk to – when I need someone to nurture me – the last person I will call is another male. I always seek to talk to a female. Why? Because they are the only ones who can contribute consistently by theirÂ understanding, tenderness,Â and compassion. This is a gift to the world that represents an essential part of God.
Men provide and protect society, not just their immediate family. Men are those who have a strong sense of their role to be physically strong and protective of those in need. While this does come in the immediate family, it also is a responsibility that God has given to all men, married or not. Single men should not see themselves as alleviated from this role simply because they are not married. All menÂ should be ready to come to the aid of all those in need. Men are leaders and should not feel unfulfilled if they cannot lead within a family. Their leadership is a gift to the world that represents an essential part of God.
God’s ultimate will may or may not be for you to find a mate. If it turns out that you remain single for the rest of your life, this does not mean that you are alone. You are part of the “good” that God pronounced on creation, married or not. You have distinct roles that God has given and you are a gift to creation.
BTW: The last two sessions of my Humanity and Sin course deal with these issues specifically. You might want to check them out. You can watch them for free.